Science of Sand

In March 2019, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange travelled to the Isles of Scilly with artist James Hankey to run workshops with primary school groups on four of the islands: St Mary’s, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Tresco.

The workshops, entitled ‘Science of Sand’, included a range of activities to explore sand: how it’s made and what you can make with it. James led discussions around different types of sand, the natural processes by which it is made and the many items we use that contain sand, from computers to washing machines! Pupils then designed their own sandcastles before walking to the local beach to build them. They presented their sandcastles to the group and offered feedback on each other’s designs. Back in the classroom, groups of schoolchildren made their own sand by smashing up shells with larger rocks. The resulting sand was viewed through a powerful microscope to reveal a multitude of colours and shapes.

The ‘Science of Sand’ workshops were inspired by a nationwide participatory project by artist Katie Paterson called ‘First There is a Mountain‘ which travelled the UK in spring/summer 2019. Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange returned to the Isles of Scilly to host ‘First there is a Mountain’, a public sandcastle building event, on Sunday 14th April at Porthcressa Beach, St Mary’s.

As part of these workshops, the pupils completed their Discover Arts Award. This enabled discussions around different art forms and encouraged the school children to think about which arts activities they engaged in and enjoyed most. The research element of the Arts Award required that they researched either James Hankey or Katie Paterson. This led to animated discussions around the artists’ practice and questioning ‘What does an artist do?’.

“A great mix of theory and practice meant that the children were offered a range of unexpected ‘ways in’ to fine art practice – through science, geology, geography, design, making and physical exertion!”

Megan Beck, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

The Science of Sand project engaged with 55 children, providing interesting, exciting and memorable creative experiences. For more information about Arts Award and creative organisations in Cornwall, click the links below.